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May the Force be with him: Stats as John Force turns 68

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Cool story here from John Force Racing as its fearless leader turns 68 years old today.

The release is below:

John Force celebrates his 68th birthday today. In honor of this birthday, here are some statistics and milestones related to Force and the No. 68.

  • Force’s 68th race (event appearance) came September 14, 1986, at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
  • The 68th race in which Force qualified for and raced came July 26, 1987, at Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colo. Force made the final but dropped the matchup against Kenny Bernstein.
  • Force’s 68th elimination round victory came June 7, 1987, at Sanair Super Speedway in St.-Pie, Quebec, Canada. The victory was a result of a bye run. More exciting for Force later in the day, he earned his first career Funny Car victory, topping Ed McCulloch (whose son Jason is now a co-crew chief on Force’s PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS).
  • Force’s 68th final round came October 30, 1994, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., against Cruz Pedregon, whom he defeated. Force has competed in 248 finals, an NHRA record.
  • Force’s 68th victory came May 17, 1998, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. He defeated Jim Epler. Force has 148 victories, an NHRA record.
  • Force’s 68th No. 1 came in the 1996 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He ended up winning the race later that weekend against Al Hofmann. Force has earned the No. 1 qualifying position 155 times in his career, an NHRA record.
  • Force set the low elapsed time for a weekend for the 68th time of his career April 26, 1998, in Richmond, Va. He ran 4.887 seconds on the quarter-mile. He has set the low ET for an event 151 times in his career, an NHRA record.
  • Force set the top event speed for a weekend for the 68th time of his career April 16, 2000, at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. He turned in a speed of 319.98 mph. Force has set the top speed for an event 133 times in his career.
  • Force’s 68th different opponent was Paula Martin, whom he faced and defeated August 18, 1991, in the first round at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota.
  • The 68th different opponent Force defeated was Gary Clapshaw, in a first-round matchup August 2, 1992, at Sonoma Raceway in California.
  • Force’s 68th matchup against 2016 and reigning NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps came in a semifinals victory at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., on June 23, 2013.
  • Force’s 68th elimination round matchup against a JFR teammate came November 14, 2004, against Eric Medlen at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
  • Force’s 68th elimination victory over a teammate came February 14, 2010, in a quarterfinals matchup against Robert Hight at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Force went on to win the race, besting Capps in the finals.
  • If Force makes it to this weekend’s finals in the NHRA Southern Nationals, it means he will have 68 elimination round victories at Atlanta Dragway. A 69th round win at the track this weekend would give him his 149th victory.
  • Force currently has 68 elimination round victories against his most common opponent, Cruz Pedregon. He has faced Pedregon 101 times during his career

And some bonus stats:

  • Force has raced on his birthday three times – 1997 in Dallas, Texas; 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia; and 2008 in Madison, Ill. His best finish was the 1997 race, when he reached the finals but lost to Randy Anderson.
  • Despite not winning either the 1997 or 2008 races on his birthday, he did establish major milestones for himself and in the NHRA ranks. He scored his 500th round victory in 1997 against Ray Higley in the second round, and his 1,000th round victory in 2008 against Ron Capps in the first round.
  • If Force wins at Atlanta, he will extend his record as the oldest driver to win an NHRA Funny Car race. He reset the mark earlier this year at Gainesville, at 67 years, 10 months, 15 days.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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